Review, by Allison Gibson. June 26, 2010
I’m a sucker for a storyline involving a protagonist’s search for identity across generations and distant lands. More often than not this fascination is satisfied by reading a novel or watching a film, maybe listening to a three-verse country song. It’s not often that such a sprawling narrative emerges from within a work of art, but such is the case with the series of photographs by San Francisco-based artist Danielle Nelson Mourning in her debut solo exhibition at Taylor De Cordoba Gallery in Culver City.
Homecoming presents large-scale ink jet prints of the artist’s pilgrimage across the country and the Atlantic to understand herself and her ancestry. This is no documentary, though; Mourning has visited old family homes in Marks, Mississippi and Niagara Falls, New York to make self-portraits in which the self is more fictional than real. She assumes the dress and style of domestic women from decades past, recalling in part Cindy Sherman’s Complete Untitled Film Stills, though in a decidedly less aggressive way. Mourning goes to Ireland as well to recreate haunting scenes of life during the potato famine of 1845. The work is endearing in its earnest investigation of family history and self, and in its multidimensional presentation of women of certain eras and of domestic life. It seems to be an intensely personal practice, as if the project would mean as much to the artist regardless of whether it had an audience. Sometimes work comes across as so prepared for an audience that there is a paucity of the artist’s own identity, but there’s none of that here.
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